Saturday, February 18, 2006

"Faith Without Works is Dead"

The Catholic Sentinel chronicles JustFaith here.

Marilyn Newton, a 69-year-old member of Christ the King Parish, had started a book group that was reading the Rev. Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics. She admired the book’s idea of seeing peace and justice as moral issues and wanted to get at the spiritual roots of the matter. When she heard from the Archdiocese of Portland about JustFaith, she sensed she had found a way.

“The promise of it was that it goes deeper, to the heart of Catholic social teaching,” Newton says, choking up with emotion. “It goes to such a deep dimension of caring for the people who Jesus cared about most.”

Newton, an artist, fears that few Catholics know what the church teaches about labor, economic justice and poverty. That leaves their political consciences “very under-informed,” she says.

Her months of work in the group have been a “transformative process,” she says. In other words, the study is changing her life — and the lives of those around her.

At her encouragement, the Newtons held off on Christmas gifts and instead donated money to a good cause in the names of loved ones.

Recently, Newton and her husband served coffee after Mass and made sure it was fair-trade coffee, a product they will urge Christ the King to buy for all events.

At a recent day for serving Portland homeless held at Memorial Coliseum, the JustFaith groups decided to put their learning into action.

Archdiocesan justice and peace director David Carrier had been telling them of the need to “put a face on poverty.”

So, the parishioners waded in among thousands of homeless people.

Newton worked in the welcoming section, treating the people as guests. Others helped folks find the doctors, dentists, housing specialists and others who had come to offer services for the day.

“This was a beginning to try to connect — person to person — with people who are struggling for basic needs,” says Holy Names Sister Janet Ryan, another JustFaith participant. “So often it is easier to pass people by, ignore them, keep them at a distance rather than getting involved. . . .We tried to make this a very special day for everyone who walked in. That kind of compassion is what we are called to as church — to open our doors and our hearts to all who come, to welcome and invite them to be part of our lives.”
Jesus served those who needed him. They responded with gratitude, longing and Faith. Their relationship with him changed their lives.

Jesus calls all of us to continue his service to those who need him. When we offer our compassion in action to the poor or marginalized, we incarnate Christ anew. We bear his presence to those that need him. Our love for the vulnerable becomes the door through which he walks through. Our relationship in Christ with the needy will surely transform their lives.

Marilyn Newton understands this. Her participation with JustFaith has already brought Christ to many who long for mercy. Her reaching out ripples the pool, spreading the Grace of God across our enshadowed Earth. Can we really afford not to join Mrs. Newton, and all others of Good will that respond in their hearts to Christ's call?